EasyCoach at odds with Shropshire over route 436

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Shropshire Council-contracted Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury service taken over by Arriva Midlands at short notice

Shropshire Council (SC) has announced Arriva Midlands has taken over the contract to run route 436 between Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth at short notice from EasyCoach.

Operation of the service between the two towns transferred to Arriva on Tuesday (January 2) using the same timetable. Arriva Midlands stepped in to run the route following GHA’s collapse in 2016, but lost it on re-tender to EasyCoach in September 2017.

Announcing the change of operator, SC said: “The council has received a substantial number of complaints relating to the performance of this service. Now, following communication with EasyCoach, SC has been notified by EasyCoach that December 30, 2017 will be the last day on which they operate the 436 service. SC recognises the importance of this service and has arranged for Arriva – the previous operator – to provide the 436 from January 2, with no change to the current timetable.”

However, Shrewsbury-based operator EasyCoach appeared to hit back at the local authority, when it issued a lengthy statement to clarify its position on December 29: “We have taken the reluctant decision to no longer operate the 436 service with effect from close of business on December 30. SC was notified earlier this week.

“We have repeatedly stated to the council that its current timetable for the 436 is not achievable and submitted a proposed revision to them. SC has refused to accept any change of the timetable and is adamant that it is achievable. Its position is that previous operators ran to this timetable without a problem. However, local newspaper reports regarding the previous operator GHA show this to be untrue.

“Being proactive, we inserted a third bus into the timetable at our own expense in order to try and improve the situation.

“Further, SC failed to notify us of upcoming roadworks on the 436 route in a timely fashion, or in some cases at all. This is particularly true of the Bridgnorth roadworks in September, the subsequent Abbey Foregate roadworks, and the forthcoming nine-week closure of Whyle Cop starting on January 8, which means route 436 cannot exit Shrewsbury over the English Bridge and would have to make a 30 to 40-minute diversion. SC has also failed to respond to or accept our request for an alternative timetable during this period.

“We are not in the business of running unreliable services and we do not have these issues on our other routes, and with other local authorities, where we have even been congratulated by the Traffic Commissioner for 100% on-time running.

“The council’s approach with the 436 has caused unnecessary stress and worry to our driving and office staff, resulting in increased staff sickness and absence and has caused inconvenience to you, the travelling public. It has also caused harm to our reputation and brand. We are not prepared to tolerate this any longer.

“SC will try to say that it had received a high number of passenger complaints. Many of these cannot be verified as SC will not release to us the identity of the complainant. Complaints that are mainly as a result of its own unachievable timetable, which it refuses to change, and its lack of notification of roadworks. Since September 2 when we started operating the 436 service, we have carried out 2,068 journeys on this route. SC has a log of 54 complaints received: a figure of 2%. Due to this, the council wrote to us at 1700hrs last Friday to threaten that it would withdraw the subsidy it pays us to operate the 436.

“We expect to see Arriva operating the 436 with effect from Tuesday (January 2) and also expect to shortly see timetable changes to the 436 being made, those that were refused by the council to ourselves.”